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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

The Walrus: Why Psychoanalysis Matters

It has taken a back seat to pop psychology, pills, and other therapies in recent years. But now, thanks to Tony Soprano (and new neuroscientific research), the "talking cure" is sexy again.
By Wendy Dennis
Published: September 2005

Tony Soprano is sitting in Dr. Jennifer Melfi's office and he is not a happy guy. As the don of New Jersey, he can't really talk about his feelings. And he doesn't put much stock in this therapy bullshit anyway. But he's passing out from panic attacks and the medical tests came back negative and his family doctor sent him for a shrink consult. Tony's office is the Bada Bing, a local strip club. He is so out of his element on Melfi's turf, he looks like a man about to be garrotted.

"This isn't going to work," he says. "I can't talk about my personal life."

"What line of work are you in?" asks Melfi.

"Waste management consultant."

"Any thoughts at all on why you blacked out?"

"I dunno. Stress maybe."

Tony is filled with dread. He feels like the sad clown, laughing on the outside, crying on the inside. His wife is on his case. His teenage kids are slip-slidin' away. His mother is giving him grief about going into a retirement home. And she's a ball-buster, the biggest. "My mother wore my father down to a little nub. He was a squeaking little gerbil when he died."

"Quite a formidable maternal presence..." observes Melfi.

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